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Overlooked Excellence

April 6, 2010

If you’re a sophisticated and seasoned professional using world class tools,
with access to a large, diverse audience,
and ample time to demonstrate your capabilities …
will your talents be appreciated?

800px-FleurdelysviolinConsider Joshua Bell’s experience.

One of the world’s greatest musicians, he’s played before crowned heads of state and commands rates running around $1,000 a minute.

On one of the most valuable violins ever made,
he performed several difficult, elegant pieces at a busy metro stop … as 1,097 people walk by … for 43 minutes.

The audience response was recorded by a hidden camera. Was there a problem with crowd control? Not exactly.

Six minutes passed before anyone stopped to listen.
Only seven people stopped and paid attention for a minute or more.
Twenty-seven gave donations, totaling almost $33.

98% of the people bypassed world class talent directly in their path.

This experiment reinforced several leadership lessons:

Strengths that are not marketed well will go unnoticed.
Capability isn’t enough. You need to ensure that your strengths are recognized. One passerby had seen him in concert – she stopped to listen, thanked him, and left the largest donation.

Context matters.
If he’d been playing at a concert hall, his audience may have listened more appreciatively. Context determines relevance.

Time constraints limit our ability to recognize unexpected pockets of excellence.
If 1,000+ people were too intent on their destination to acknowledge the virtuoso before them, what else isn’t registering? Allow yourself to stop and smell the roses, hear the music and make the most of what’s right in front of you.

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